There are few experiences in this world that I find consistently as wonderful as an opening night. The exhilaration, the anxiety, the expectation, the fear, and the excitement all blend together into one massive rush of FEELING. Being onstage makes me feel alive. I love putting on my costume and getting my hair done (because I am usually luckily enough to enlist the help of more hair-talented friends) and putting out set pieces. Some strange part of me even loves the churning stomach and the shaking hands that accompany the endless pacing backstage. Endless pacing helps nerves, don’tcha know.
I love nervously talking to my castmates and reviewing my lines one last time, even though I know that it is too late to do anything about it. There are many things I love about opening night before ever getting onstage, but mostly I love hearing the audience trickle in. The addition of an audience is crucial to theatre. Without it we are only endlessly rehearsing. The moment that you step out from behind the curtain and there are people watching you and you know what you’re doing and your character slips over you like a glove—it’s magic. That’s the only word I have to describe it. Pure dead magic.
Saying words that you’ve said a hundred times and hearing laughter—actual laughter—from someone who has never read Neil Simon, never met Charley and Claire and Cookie, never anticipated the joke that you just told is such a rush. People are watching you and you are telling them a story. I’ve always jumped at the chance to tell stories. In some ways you are acutely aware of the many eyes upon you, how they are affecting you, and how you are affecting them, but in another way you are only Chris. And Chris just wants to have a cigarette and figure out how the freak she is going to get out of this dinner party.
I am always astonished by the level of talent that I get to work with. My castmates are some of the funniest, kindest, most dedicated people I have ever met. I would consider it a privilege to work with any one of them again. There is a bond that comes during late nights and stressed run-throughs and laughing hysterically because you’ve spent the last five hours together, another sound cue just went wrong, and if you don’t laugh you’ll cry. Hell Week is tough, but it’s also a forging fire. The cast comes out stronger than they went in. The Rumors cast only had six rehearsals, so really it was a condensed Hell Week experience, but I wouldn’t give it away for anything. It’s been so much fun, such an escape, what I look forward to throughout the day.
I could honestly sit here and write out a paragraph about each and every member of this cast. Suffice it to say that Jake, Michael, Jennica, Quinn, Becky, Chooky, Sasha, Marie, and JoAnn are absolutely the cat's meow. I used to think that I could never love straight plays as much as musicals, and musicals are still my first love, but first Importance of Being Earnest and now Rumors-- so much adoration. And small casts always end up so TIGHT. For someone who doesn't make friends super easily, it is such a blessing that theatre people exist and accept me and don't mind sitting in a restaurant after opening night laughing at my British accent and taking Polaroid pictures.
Performing makes me happy. Performing a well-written script thrills me. And performing a well-written script with an out-of-my-league cast? It doesn’t get much better than that.